N.D. governor names 14-member group to study property tax reforms
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple stopped in Grand Forks Tuesday to discuss the future of property taxes after announcing the creation of a 14-member Task Force on Property Tax Reform earlier that day.
"We're going to need a consensus from a broad group of people to make a breakthrough on this," Dalrymple told the Herald.
Among the 14 names is Grand Forks City Council President Hal Gershman. Dalrymple said Gershman, who owns Happy Harry's Bottle Shops, brings experience as both a commercial property owner and as a council member.
Some of the taskforce's assigned tasks are to find ways the state can simplify its property tax system, provide more transparency in the budgeting of local governments and identify "meaningful, long-term savings" for taxpayers.
"Now that we have provided historic tax relief, it's time to take the next step and achieve lasting property tax reform," Dalrymple said.
The state has provided about $2.4 billion in tax relief since 2009, with roughly $1.5 billion of that coming through reductions in local property taxes, according to the governor's office.
Recent efforts include a 12 percent tax credit on property bills and a school tax buydown. In the 2007-2008 school year, the average mill levy for schools was 190.55 mills. Projections for next year put that average at 67.2 mills.
However, some cities, counties and other local taxing authorities have continued to collect more in property tax revenue because rising property valuations have outpaced the state support. That's led to "a lot of questions" from residents about how the property tax system works and whether relief is really being delivered, Dalrymple said.
Even with those increases, he added that taxpayers should see a noticeable decrease on their tax bill this year.
Research and analysis
Dalrymple is creating the task force by executive order, directing its members to research and analyze all mill levies authorized by political subdivisions other than school districts, as well as the processes they use to assess and collect property taxes to fund local government services.
"We're hopeful that we can achieve some very meaningful results," he said.
The task force will hold its first meeting Friday. Dalrymple said he wants the task force to complete its work in time to forward its research and recommendations to the Legislature when it convenes in January 2015.
Dalrymple said the task force will identify opportunities to simplify, consolidate or eliminate unnecessary and duplicative taxes; replace taxing authorities with user-based fee authorities; replace tax levies with other possible revenue sources, such as state funding; and improve the timelines and processes used by local political subdivisions to assess and finalize property valuations and develop operating budgets.
Dalrymple will serve as chairman of the task force. Its other members are:
• Blaine DesLauriers, a Minot homeowner
• Hal Gershman, a Grand Forks commercial property owner and City Council member
• Michael Montplaisir, Cass County auditor
• Loren DeWitz of Bismarck, a property tax payer representing agricultural producers
• Bill Wocken, Bismarck city manager
• Ryan Rauschenberger, North Dakota's deputy tax commissioner. Rauschenberger has been appointed to serve the remaining one year of Commissioner Cory Fong's term when Fong leaves for the private sector at the end of this year.
• Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor
• Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee
• Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, chairman of the House Finance and Taxation Committee
Non-voting members of the task force are:
• James Kramer, director of Dickinson Parks and Recreation and representative for the North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association
• Mark Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties
• Jon Godfread, vice president of government affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber
• Blake Crosby, representing the North Dakota League of Cities
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